Ban On The Run: CDC Extends Eviction Moratorium To Oct 3
Stakes stack higher as White House steps up to protect renters from eviction measures during the latest surge of COVID-19 Delta variants.
One study from last fall found that states that had lifted their own moratoria last spring and summer experienced much higher coronavirus caseloads and deaths than states that kept them in place. Those evicted ended up living in more-crowded places—relatives’ apartments, motel rooms or shelters—where social distancing is harder. This is especially relevant to the Delta strain, which is substantially more transmissible than earlier variants.
Wall Street Journal Politics & Ideas columnist William A. Galston writes here of the beginning, middle, and what he thought might be the end of former President Donald Trump's executive order asking the Centers for Disease Control to use its public health and safety powers to stem the tide of COVID-19 spread by continuing eviction protections for tenants from July of last year through the present.
On the eve of what Galston believed would be an "Eviction Crisis," he wrote:
We never should have reached this point. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, signed into law by Mr. Trump in December, provided $25 billion to help tenants pay their rent. Another relief bill, signed by President Biden in March, offered an additional $21.5 billion. But less than 10% of these funds have been disbursed. Landlords are complaining that they can’t pay their bills for taxes, utilities and maintenance.
Now, in defiance of a Supreme Court direction in June that – without the approval of Congress – it could issue a stay against any further extension of eviction moratoria past July 31, President Joseph Biden issued a new executive order yesterday. The new expiration date for the latest eviction ban order – covering 80% of U.S. counties and 90% of renters – is October 3.
A National Multifamily Housing Council statement opposing the new order, notes that it reflects a 180-degree reversal of the Administration's position last week.
This move does nothing to speed the delivery of real solutions for America’s renters and ignores the unsustainable and unfair economic burden placed on millions of housing providers— jeopardizing their financial stability and threatening the loss of affordable housing stock nationwide.
The NMHC's point is that apartment landlords – the vast majority of whom are small to medium-sized business operations, with bills to pay, loans to pay off at the risk of financial hardship, mouths to feed, and livelihoods that depend on rental income – have been left "holding the bag."
The NMHC, and WSJ columnist Galston, rightly point at a fail in the Congress' $47 billion array of programs earmarked for both tenants' rent assistance and landlord benefits, noting that as of June 30, just $3 billion of those budgeted programs had deployed.
It is unacceptable that some localities continue to delay distribution of benefits, and it is unacceptable to continue to ask housing providers to carry the financial burden of this pandemic.
At issue are three challenges, shooting spasms of vertigo and peril through the landscape of housing finance.
- health, a known and unknown contagion whose destructive force ebbs and flows
- power, an increasingly dangerous struggle between federal and local elected officials
- money, or namely, who's getting it, who's not, who's earning it, who's not
The stakes are spooling upward. The Administration's gamble is that it can use the next 60 days to kickstart and fasttrack the Congressionally budgeted $44 billion in rental assistance programs, hoping all the while that the pandemic's Delta variant and other potential variants subside, all in time before a Supreme Court might take up the case against the latest moratorium with an eye to curbing CDC powers altogether.
Bloomberg staffers Nancy Cook, Billy House, and Jennifer Epstein write:
The CDC has used its authority in the pandemic to require Americans to wear masks on airplanes and public transit and to regulate the activity of cruise ships, in addition to halting evictions.
“The court could issue a decision that could adopt a very far-right constitutional interpretation, which could create vulnerability for environmental and financial regulations. There is a spectrum of consequences,” Wiley said. “The White House is right to be careful in pressing this issue.”
So, either the latest White House intervention becomes a win-win, or it could become a lose-lose-lose.